Happy trails: Take a hike, now
While the COVID-19 pandemic is by no means over, more people are getting vaccinated and restrictions are gradually being lifted. After too much time spent inactive and indoors, what better way to move your body and enjoy nature than by hiking? In many ways, hiking is the perfect antidote to a global pandemic because it can heal both body and mind.
Enjoy the benefits of a hike
- Like brisk walking, hiking provides a moderate intensity cardio workout, as long as your route includes hills or inclines. Trekking on uneven surfaces engages your abdominal muscles and improves your balance.
- Hiking is also a mood booster. Research shows that spending time in green spaces, such as nature trails and wooded areas, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It doesn’t matter if you are walking alone or with others.
- The CDC always suggests that people maintain social distancing during outdoor activities, including hiking, as it is not possible to tell who is fully vaccinated. You should also wear a mask around people who are not in your household or in your personal pod.
- Many local, state, and national parks are still closed or have limited access, but some trails may be open in your area or will reopen soon. (Check out these sites for local trail conditions near you: National Park Service, American Trails, and American Hiking Society.)
Ready to go hiking?
Before putting on your hiking boots, make sure you are well prepared. After all, you’ve probably been out of the world for a while. Here are a few tips.
Work on your walk. If your walking stamina requires a little work, start a regular walking program in your neighborhood. Walk for 10 to 20 minutes every day and wear a step counter to motivate yourself.
Safety first. If you can’t walk with someone, let a friend or family member know where you will be walking and for how long. Bring your cell phone and a local map if needed.
Apply sunscreen. Even if you mostly walk in the shade, you can still get sunburned. Always wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30 that blocks both types of ultraviolet rays – UVA and UVB – and a lip balm with sunscreen. Apply about 20 minutes before your hike, then reapply every two hours.
Protect yourself against ticks. Ticks are common in the United States and can spread serious illnesses, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks are often found in wooded, brushy, or grassy areas. Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants, if possible. Use an effective tick repellent on exposed skin, clothing, and hiking gear. Do a thorough tick check after the hike. Know what to do if you find a tick on your body – and what signs suggest you may have been bitten by a tick, such as a rash or flu symptoms. Contact your healthcare professional immediately for advice and appropriate treatment.
Stay hydrated. Drink water before, during, and after your hike. Watch out for your thirst (If you’re thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated.) Set a timer on your phone or sports watch to remind yourself to drink at regular intervals.
Watch the weather. If you’re unsure of the forecast, wear layers that you can add or take off depending on the weather. Carry a rolled up windbreaker, waterproof jacket or poncho in a backpack.
Support yourself. Invest in hiking or trail running shoes with good ankle support. Wear mid-calf socks to protect your legs. Hiking with trekking poles can help you navigate difficult terrain and support your knees.
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